Meet Edward Feathers, also known as Sir Edward, Teddy, Fevvers, or Old Filth. Filth is an acronym nickname that stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong, to describe lawyers who weren’t successful in England and found easier success in the Far East. Now back in England, the death of his wife causes Edward to reexamine the events and people of his childhood and how they shaped him.
Old Filth, composed and wealthy, initially appears to have had a soft life. As Gardam explores his past, the reader sees instead a painful childhood that teaches him toughness, a life of hard luck and tragedy that reveals a surprisingly complex and fascinating character, and a grown man struggling to understand his own identity. The author weaves in and out of time and space and changes perspectives, a style that is both riveting and calls for a deft narrator.
Graeme Malcolm and his posh British accent bring Old Filth to life, complete with his occasional stammer. A prolific and versatile narrator, Malcolm has performed everything from children’s books (Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux) to a John Lennon biography. He shifts easily among locations and perspectives, and captures Old Filth’s bewilderment, as a person who never quite fits in his place or time, with poignancy and humor.
Jane Gardam, a venerated author who has won the Whitbread Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, completely captures a world gone by, when men still changed their shirts before dinner and England was an empire. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s life as a “Raj Orphan” a British citizen born in the Empire, raised by surrogate parents, then torn from his loved ones to be schooled in England Gardam explores themes of love, loss, home, and family with crisp yet moving prose. The more emotional scenes are told without heavy-handed sentimentality and are all the more effective and haunting for it.
Old Filth is a must-listen for Anglophiles, listeners who enjoy memorable characters, and a perfect choice for book clubs. (Check out a companion book, The Man in the Wooden Hat, also performed by Malcolm, that tells Filth’s wife’s story.) Jane Gardam and Graeme Malcolm combine their talents for an exquisite listen. Julie MacDonald
FILTH is a lawyer with a practice in the Far East. A few remember that his nickname stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. But Old Filth is not as pompous as people imagine, and his past contains many secrets and dark hiding places.
©2004 Jane Gardam (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
He captures the voices beautifully.
Old filth, it was the story about his life and some of the mysteries explaining his personality.
I have both read and listen to Old Filth. They are both excellent and very different experiences. Jane Gardam is a terrific writter and the language is beautiful to hear.
I have not listened to Graeme Malcom read before, but I will definitely look for his work in the future.
Interesting subject matter about aging.
Your loved ones may not be all you think...or more!
The historical background.
It surprised me. It exceeded my expectations.
He is a gifted reader. You can read a play, but watching it on stage when it is performed by talented actors is so much better. I believe the same applies to books.
The man in the wooden hat is the same author, same characters, same story from a different angle. Read this first.
I loved the character development, and the way the author presented the story...past, present, twist..etc. The whole cast of characters were vivid and quirky. A little slow moving in some parts, but well worth the listening time. I loved the old cousins, what a hoot. Great contrast between the actual and apparent reality of a life well-lived.The narration was clear and nicely paced.
A favorite scene was when
I know this book has received great reviews but it just did not resonate with me. In the end it was "just a story". None of the characters engaged me,I didn't find Filth to be particularly interesting and I looked forward to the end.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
Old Filth is the nickname of the main character who is clean, bright, good-looking but in need of love. He is one of a group of "Raj orphans" -- kids who were born of British parents and sent back to England to toughen them up, etc. etc. The tragedy is that these parents had education and money. Where in hell were their heads?! In Eddie's case, his mom died when he was born and his dad gave him no more attention than he would to the phone bill. Just write a check and finished! Eddie's first years are spent in the servant class home of a young Malasian nurse where he is cuddled and cherished and becomes fluent in Malay. Then he is sent to the least expensive recommended foster family in Wales. Three other children, a fat boy who wets the bed and two girl cousins, are in this home. Terrible things happen there. We can assume it was an abusive home, but the whole truth only comes out at the end of, I believe, Wooden Hat. These children grow up and attend social events back in Hong Kong. They refer to Wales in whispers! Finally Eddie is sent to a good prep school where the headmaster, "Sir", a man he instinctively likes, gives him a fine foundation of bird and botanical knowledge, all the basics and loving discipline.
The best part of the story is when Eddie learns his dad has been writing to his headmaster about sending Eddie back to Singapore to be saved from the war -- WWII! Kids were routinely evacuated to wherever might be safer for them. Eddie is almost 18, has friends in England, is going for his college entrance exams so when he finishes his military service he can go straight to university. He writes his father a blazing letter pointing out that while he is grateful for having been funded all this time, the father could have written to HIM about these plans, that he is 6'2" and would be very uncomfortable being evacuated with a bunch of small children, that he does have a life and . . . ooh, this is so good!
It's important to read the series in order. I think this is the best book of the three. However, once we know Eddie's friends, his wife, his enemies, then the other books fill in on these people. For example, we get the impression that Betty is just a dumpy little English wife with nice skin, but nothing too special. It takes the next book to learn about Betty! At first glance the book is about parties and what do people think and who said what to whom. And who won the big legal case, who is sleeping with someone else's wife, who can't have children. On another level there is anguish, hurt pride, shame. If I had not seen the name Jane, I would think the author was a man. For sure not chick lit! No way! This author reminds me of Henry James, the subtlety, the stiff upper lip. The writing is poetic and disciplined. The author is well-educated, a citizen of the world, as are the characters.
I had no difficulty with the narration. Hardly noticed it, which means it is top notch.
I wish I had read this instead of listening to it. There were a few too many characters (some called different names either at different times, or by different people) and a few too many time shifts for me to be certain I got all I could've by listening to the audiobook.
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